NCAA protects itself before its athletes

Photo by Casey Gomez

Wednesday Jan. 24, Judge Rosemarie Aqualina sentenced the former sports doctor for the USA Women’s Gymnastics team and Michigan State to 40 to 175 years in prison for his serial molestation of gymnasts. Before he even sees a second of that sentence the 54-year old will face a 60 year federal sentence for child

The case against Nassar took off in 2016 when Rachael Denhollander, a Kentucky lawyer and former gymnast, filed a complaint with the Michigan State University Police. After news broke about the USA Gymnastics team mishandling sexual assault allegations and the Michigan State complaints began to pile up, it was clear that Nassar was going to be going to prison.

In the time since the first accusations came out, over 100 women came forward to accuse Nassar of sexually assaulting them while performing his duties as a doctor. Many of those women were assaulted while they were at Michigan State, an NCAA university. It was not until Tuesday Jan. 23 that the NCAA announced they would begin an investigation into the incident.

Yet another time the NCAA will come in to investigate something that has already been

What happens next is up in the air. If the NCAA wanted to set some moral standard and punish Michigan State for what happened under their watch, they would have acted sooner. Instead, they waited until the pressure mounted so much as to threaten their bottom line.

The main problem with the NCAA in this scenario is them masquerading as something they are not. They are meant to be a governing body for the colleges and universities around the country that participate in varsity athletics. They derive their power from the member colleges and are meant to represent the best interests of all parties: athletes, administrations and other members.

This is all outlined on their website with feel good blurbs about how they help regulate the health and safety of athletes, hold athletes to a higher academic standard and promote fairness and integrity in competition. I do not doubt that they do help the health of many athletes, especially in the realm of concussions and head health, but at the same time, they rarely practice what they preach.

Prior to this Michigan State case, one needs to look no further than the decision that was given after UNC’s academic-athletic scandal. The university literally offered classes that were impossible to fail, everyone who took the class would pass, regardless of effort or materials turned in. Furthermore, it was a class with disproportionate representation, seemingly tailored towards athletes.

One would think that an institution that supposedly promotes academic standards and integrity would come down heavy-handed in a case like this. However, the NCAA came forth after a multi-year investigation and announced that UNC would not face any punishment for its actions.

As the NY Times article on the decision stated, “The NCAA did not dispute that the University of North Carolina was guilty of running one of the worst academic fraud schemes in college sports history, involving fake classes that enabled dozens of athletes to gain and maintain their eligibility.” The reasoning behind their decision? It was not only athletes benefiting from the classes. Through this decision, and decisions prior, it is clear that the NCAA is not living up to the guidelines it
set itself.

Because of this, I cannot legitimately believe the NCAA cares about the student athletes that were harmed under Nassar’s reign of terror. If that were the case, if they truly felt they needed to protect athletes, they would have launched an investigation sooner. Instead, they have simply sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State in regards to a possible rules violation.

A year and a half too late, but not surprising given the precedent the NCAA has set. At this point in time, the president of Michigan State, Lou Anna Simon, has resigned. Outrage will continue even past the time Nassar is in prison. One would think the damage would be done, an investigation has happened, a verdict has been reached and a criminal is going to jail, but for the NCAA things are just getting started.